Enterprise Minnesota Magazine - January 2013
HELPING MANUFACTURERS GROW PROFITABLY
Expert manufacturers redesign and teach the College of Continuing Education’s Manufacturing Operations Management degree program to give students the skills leading Minnesota companies seek.
By Mac McKeen
If you’re seeking new manufacturing talent, you are not alone. The industry’s qualified worker shortage has arrived, leaving many good-paying jobs unfilled despite a myriad of recruitment efforts. In response, many companies are taking a different approach to hiring: sending their employees back to school.
In 2000, a group of Southern Minnesota manufacturers came to the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education with a problem. They had manufacturing technicians who had significant talent and potential to move up in the business, but who needed more communication, business, leadership and additional technical skills. From this concern, the Manufacturing Operations Management degree was born. It teaches students the management strategies, tactics and soft skills they’ll need to step into manufacturing management and leadership roles. I like to call it the “make stuff” degree, because graduates are the people who can work cross-functionally within an organization to manufacture high-quality products and grow the business. They make stuff, and they make stuff happen.
From my perspective as both a faculty member and manufacturer, I believe this degree is uniquely suited to Minnesota manufacturers for several reasons. Core subjects are based on four key areas of ISO 9001, including leadership, supply chain and resource management, manufacturing concepts and techniques, and quality management and sustainability. Classes are offered at night or online to accommodate working adults. The curriculum is frequently updated to meet companies’ evolving needs. Two years ago, the college assembled an advisory board of manufacturing leaders to learn what skills and qualities they looked for in employees. Multiple courses have since been added to the program based on their responses, including lean manufacturing, outsourcing, and engineering for manufacturing.
Perhaps the program’s greatest advantage is that its faculty members are manufacturing practitioners. Because we are able to teach from experience, we impart knowledge that is both practical and applicable. We also become mentors for many of the students, knowing that many of them will secure internships and, later, jobs, at our companies. It’s truly a win-win-win for the students, the manufacturers and Minnesota’s economy.
Before you post another job listing in the paper, first consider your current employees. Who has a great work ethic? Who could take on more responsibilities with more education? Who has the motivation and dedication to be a leader? If someone comes to mind, you may find that Manufacturing Operations Management is a great fit for both your employee and your business.
To learn more about University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education Manufacturing Operations Management degree, go to cce.umn.edu/mm
Mac McKeen, MBA, RAC has more than 20 years of experience in the medical device industry in regulatory and quality roles focused on the development, manufacture, and regulatory approvals of medical devices. He is currently a Principal at Boston Scientific, with previous leadership roles at Medtronic, St. Jude Medical and Guidant. McKeen also serves as Faculty Director for the Manufacturing Operations Management degree program at the University of Minnesota and instructs an advanced course on medical device development. He is actively involved in advocacy and collaboration with the FDA through industry associations, including AdvaMed and LifeScience Alley.
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